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Third Temple

Muslim apocalyptic believers fear that efforts to destroy Al-Aqsa mosque to make way for the Third Temple will prevent fulfillment of the prophecy about Islam's Meccan shrine migrating to Jerusalem at the end of time. Among Muslims, expectation of the final Hour helps feed exaggerated fears about Israel's actions in Jerusalem. Belief in the approaching End has influenced crucial events in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Time and again, it has been the rationale behind apparently irrational bloodshed, and undermined efforts at peacemaking. In the worst case, desire for history's finale has the potential to spark all-out war in the Middle East.

To messianic Jews, continued Muslim control of the Temple Mount constitutes an insufferable indignity. "Until the holy of holies is under our sovereignty, it means we're still living in the Diaspora," one of Israel's pre-eminent religious figures and the army rabbi who blew the shofar, or ram's horn, when Israeli troops captured the Temple Mount in 1967, Rabbi Shlomo Goren said in 1994. "It means we are not yet living in a Jewish state."

Jews believe the Temple Mount is where Abraham bound his son Isaac for sacrifice, where Solomon erected the so-called First Temple for prayer and animal offerings, and where it was later rebuilt by Herod the Great. After the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 AD, Jews have longed to rebuild a third one. Many messianic Jews believe a third temple is a prerequisite for the coming of the Messiah.

Militant Jews embarked on a campaign to get Muslims off the Temple Mount once and for all. "We are living at a time when God is correcting the mistakes of history," says Gershon Salomon, a history professor and leader of Temple Mount Faithful, a Jewish group dedicated to wresting control of the sacred site. "Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock must be removed back to Mecca, the place from where they came. We will rebuild them stone by stone. We have the means to do it."

Religiously based terrorism is interested in dispelling from the earth all elements that corrupt its vision of the world. In the case of the Gush Emunim, this meant using violence to prepare the way for the messianic age. Sacred Islamic shrines on the Temple Mount, called The Abomination by the Gush terrorists, were viewed as desecrations of the site of the third temple. This justified their planned destruction of the Dome of the Rock. This plan was halted only when the planners failed to receive Rabbinic approval for it. Such groups are not interested in negotiation or compromise with those not of their faith.

Though the Temple Mount has become a lightning rod for Jewish extremists, most less-religious Jews -- inside and outside Israel -- don't give the sacred site much thought these days. The Reform movement's prayer book doesn't even mention the ancient temple rituals, although nearly one-quarter of the Torah's 613 laws deal with the temple's animal sacrifices, writes Rabbi Joseph Telushkin in his book, "Jewish Literacy." The Conservative denomination's prayer book celebrates the temple cult as part of ancient Judaism, but expresses no desire to reinstate it.

Only Orthodox Jews continued to pray regularly for the rebuilding of the temple and for animal sacrifices to be offered there again. But even many of these observant Jews find the prospect of reviving animal offerings, on the eve of the 21st century, a bit far-fetched.

"It would be hard for me, as a mainstream Orthodox rabbi, to assume that if the temple was rebuilt, we'd pick up where we were 2,000 years ago," says Rabbi Michah Halpern, a historian in Jerusalem. Rather, he says, it is the act of "yearning" for the third temple and the Messiah that counts. "We are not involved in the actual building processes themselves," he says.

This modern reticence made it easy for then-Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, shortly after Israel's 1967 victory, to return control of the Temple Mount to its Jordanian-run Islamic board, called the waqf. At the time, many rabbis were warning Jews to stay off the Temple Mount anyway, lest they commit the "arrogance of arrogance" of treading on the "holy of holies," where in ancient times only the high priest was allowed to go. (Nobody knows precisely where the hollowed ground lies.) The waqf took back the keys; few Jews complained.

But over the years, Temple Mount experts, including Rabbi Goren, published diagrams of the ancient site showing the many areas where Jews could safely roam. The messianists, whose numbers have steadily grown since 1967, had their calling: Take back the Temple Mount.

Small groups sprang up to lead Jewish worshipers on to the mount in defiance of the waqf. Israeli police had to seal off ancient tunnels discovered under the site to foil Jewish efforts to raze the Muslim shrines. Nearby, a yeshiva, a religious school, was founded to train future priests for duties in a rebuilt temple. And the Temple Institute, funded in part by the Israeli government, reproduced all the necessary biblical trappings--from sacrificial urns and altars to priestly vestments and breastplates--to perform the temple rituals again. Suddenly, Jews, who had waited millenniums to restore the temple, were beginning the process themselves.

"When you say the Messiah will rebuild the temple later on," says the institute's Rabbi Chaim Richman, "you're basically shirking the responsibility yourself."

Groups such as the Temple Mount Faithful and the Temple Institute regularly called for increased Jewish access and prayer at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, as well as the construction of a Third Jewish Temple on the site. The Temple Institute in August 2014 began a crowdfunding campaign to finance architectural plans for the Third Temple, and a promotional video on its website depicted the Third Temple built atop the al-Aqsa Mosque site. In the mid-1980s, a group of settlers was arrested and convicted of terrorist acts against Palestinians and of plotting to destroy the Dome of the Rock.

The “Jerusalem syndrome” is a temporary psychiatric condition - characterised by patients believing that they have become biblical figures such as Jesus, John the Baptist, or Moses - has been known to Israeli psychiatrists for decades. It affects mainly Christian pilgrims but is occasionally diagnosed in Jews who tour holy sites. Religious Jews with the syndrome may believe that the building of the third temple is imminent, that the ancient animal sacrifices will be restored, and that their own Messiah will soon arrive.

Those affected begin to act strangely, sometimes proclaiming that they are ancient religious figures sent on a holy mission. Apocalyptic Christians expected the next millennium to herald the second coming of Jesus on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, so experts warned that the number of patients may increase sharply.

The temple cause spread to non-Jews as well. Prominent leaders of America's Christian right insistently predicted the Third Temple will be built. Messianic Christians believe the building of the Third Temple marks the "end of days," when Jesus will return to officiate the Final Judgment. Construction of the Third Temple would require the destruction of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

In Canton, Miss., a Christian preacher and cattle breeder named Clyde Lott, after reading Genesis one night, contacted his state's trade office to find out if Israel had the red cows it would need to perform proper, biblical purification rites in a third temple. It didn't. Over the past five years, Mr. Lott, working with the Temple Institute and some American Christian backers, has developed a breed of red cow that he hopes will spawn "the livestock restoration" of Israel, he says.

Many Christians believe another manmade temple will be built prior to Jesus' return. They will cite the prophecy that sacrifice and offering will be stopped in the midst of the 70th Week (Daniel 9:27) as one major piece of evidence for this. However, sacrifices and offerings were made on an altar even before the foundation of the Second Temple had been laid (Ezra 3:1-6). Therefore, there does not have to be another manmade temple standing, in which sacrifices and offerings will take place and then are stopped, for Daniel's prophecy to be fulfilled.

The risks increased after the year 2000, as prophesised dates for the End pass and believers looked for a way to ensure that the End came within the lifetime of those who saw the creation of the state of Israel.

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Page last modified: 13-12-2015 20:34:08 ZULU